A Gift From the Heart
"Geez, I'm sorry, Frase."
"You said that earlier, Ray. I assure you, there is no need to apologize."
Dief greeted them as they entered Fraser's apartment. Although the wolf was certainly capable of hitting the Chicago streets and finding his own entertainment, he'd made it a special point to be home when the mountie returned. Not only was this a special night for his human, but there might be some cake in it for him too.
"Yeah, but it's your birthday...." Kowalski was beside himself. Of all the times to screw up, he had to make a mess of Fraser's birthday.
"Ray..." As though on auto pilot, Benton Fraser stripped off his red dress tunic and hung it up. His partner, Stanley "Ray" Kowalski, paced the confines of the small apartment as though it was a cage. As usual, he wasn't noticing that the Canadian was trying to get his attention.
"...and I wanted to do something nice for you...." God knew that the mountie deserved it. Ben spent so much time doing good deeds for others, that Ray was keenly aware that sometimes the gentle man's own needs often got neglected.
"...I remembered that you seemed to like ballet and stuff like that and I knew you didn't get much of a chance to go to that kind of thing up there in Canada...."
"Ray!" Sometimes, Benton worried about his partner's energy level, afraid that the smaller man might just spontaneously combust one day.
"....so when I saw that this special ballet company was gonna do 'Swan Lake'-- on your birthday - I thought it'd make a good present...."
Kowalski blinked and looked at the other man. "How was I know to know it was one of those fake ballets, where guys dress up like ballerinas and pretend to be girls."
Happy to have achieved the smaller man's attention, Fraser hastened to reassure the Chicago detective that his gift had been most appreciated. "Well, it was certainly an interesting rendition of the piece."
Kowalski threw his hands up in despair. "C'mon, Frase. I'm no connoisseur, but even I know that it was crap."
"On the contrary, Ray," Benton moved to the kitchenette and held up a kettle, silently asking if Ray wanted to join him in a cup of tea. When he received a nod of agreement, the dark-haired man began to fill it with water before continuing.
"There was one occasion while I was a boy where the village wanted to stage The Nutcracker ballet for Christmas. Now, it was a very small settlement and there weren't nearly enough dancers to fill all of the parts."
Ray leaned against the kitchen counter, arms crossed over his chest. Fraser didn't lie, ever, but the man had an uncanny knack for hiding his true feelings in between the lines of one of his stories. Kowalski'd be damned if he let his friend do that on his birthday, of all days. "Don't tell me, the Innuit dressed the caribou up and put them on stage."
"Now that's just silly, Ray," Fraser chided him. "Their hooves would wreck havoc with the surface of a dance floor. No, the caribou weren't drafted, but I remember that some of the mounties filled in."
"The mounties?" "Yes, I was just a boy and my father couldn't be there for Christmas. But Buck Frobisher was stationed in the area temporarily...."
"Frobisher, in a ballet? Somethin' tells me that I don't want to hear the rest of this."
"Actually, he was quite good. Running a dog sled develops the calf muscles quite nicely."
"I'm gonna regret this, but what part did he play?"
"The Sugarplum Fairy."
Ray grinned. "Buck, in a tutu?"
"Yes, a pink one, if memory serves me right." Benton looked on in disapproval while his partner hooted with laughter. "The point is, Ray, that sometimes the most professional of performances don't touch the heart as much as those imbued with true emotion."
Ray wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes and tried to contemplate what his friend was saying. "So, you really enjoyed it tonight? You're not just blowin' smoke?"
"No, I liked the ballet very much." Fraser, fair skin delicately tinted pink, searched through the cupboards for the tea.
"Then how come you were so quiet on the way home?" Fraser became engrossed in the search for the elusive tea but Kowalski wasn't buying it. The mountie was the only person he knew that organized his cupboards alphabetically. Fraser was hiding again and he was *not* going to let him get away with it. Stepping close to the bigger man, Ray reached up and grasped Benton's chin, forcing the Canadian to look him in the eye. "How come, Frase?"
Fraser blinked, eyes impossibly blue in the dim illumination coming from the kitchenette's lone light bulb. "I was just thinking, Ray."
Caught up in the headiness of being so close to Ben, Ray had almost missed the whispered reply. "Thinkin' about what?"
Benton moved back a step, wanting to put some space between Ray and himself before the other man noticed the fine tremors running through his body. Or the other....stiffer....reactions the detective's nearness had caused. "About the last time someone gave me a birthday present, Ray."
Kowalski let Fraser re-establish his own personal space - for the time being. "When was that, Frase?"
The teakettle started to whistle and Fraser turned to the mundane task with a sense of relief. He'd been wondering lately if his feelings for his partner, which were rather more romantic than was typical in police work, were returned by the American. He'd been watching most carefully and had cataloged all of the findings. How the smaller man's pupils would dilate while watching Benton remove his tunic. The way that Ray's breathing increased when their thighs happened to touch in the small car during stakeouts. And, most telling, how his partner would bristle when Francesca or any other female approached him. Almost as if he were jealous. If all of the clues were put together by a man used to relying on deductive reasoning, one might suppose that Kowalski was attracted to him. Fraser was willing to follow logic on criminal cases, but he was cautious of depending on cold analytical reasoning when it came to dealing with affairs of the heart. The only problem was, after the Victoria debacle, he could no longer trust his duplicitous emotions. A classic impasse... and his relationship with Ray was too important to mar if his feelings were unrequited.
It was a good thing for both of them that Stanley Ray Kowalski was used to relying on his gut. The smaller man saw Benton's throat working as the Canadian tried to come up with an answer to his question. He invaded the mountie's space to again turn Fraser's face towards his own. "When was the last time someone gave you a birthday present, Ben?"
Fraser swallowed, not used to hearing such a tender tone in his partner's voice. "I can't remember," he finally whispered.
Oh, damn. Ray couldn't think of a thing to say that would have any hope of making his friend feel better but then it occurred to him that maybe the best way to comfort Ben wouldn't involved words at all. He moved his other hand up until Fraser's face was cradled between both hands, stood up on tiptoe, and gently kissed the taller man on the lips.
At first, the mountie held himself perfectly still, but then his larger hands came up to bury themselves in Ray's short blonde spikes as he returned the American's kiss. Several heartbeats went by in the apartment with no noise but the moist sound of lips dancing. Finally, they both had to come up for air.
Ray gently pulled back, giving Ben room if he needed it. The dark-haired Canadian was looking pointedly at the floor and Kowalski found that he already missed looking into those dark blue eyes. "Fraser, you okay?"
"Yes, Ray." The detective became concerned at the other man's quietness; Benton Fraser was not normally a taciturn man. His heart sinking, he started to realize that maybe he should have used words to comfort Ben after all. "Look, Fraser, we need to talk about this."
"No, Ray," Ben corrected him. "I don't want to talk about it." Just as Ray's heart took another dive, the mountie looked up at him shyly before continuing. "I don't want to talk about it - I just want to do it again."
"Sure thing, buddy," Ray grinned as he reassured Fraser. "Anything you want. It's your birthday." He took the bigger man by the hand and led the way to the Canadian's bed.
And, for the first time in years, Benton Fraser not only got a birthday present, but it was precisely the one he wanted.
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